Before our adopted daughter came to live with us as a foster child in 2019, we prepared in all the ways we knew how. We did all the training with the Department of Human Services, we read all the books we could get our hands on, we read all the blog posts on adoption, and we talked to all the experts on our team. We also prepared in fun ways that brought joy to our hearts; we painted her room pink and bought so many clothes! I knew we were prepared to take the significant steps to become parents.
Unprepared for Big Emotions
What we weren’t ready for were the rages and the big emotions that came at unpredictable times. We were at a loss for how to help our girl deal with her big emotions. Back to the books and experts we went. We’ve learned a lot in the last four years on how to teach our girl to deal with her emotions in the correct way. Some of the things we are now skilled at, and others are still a struggle for us when we are in chaos.
When I came to the realization that this was not going to fix itself, I did some research and started working on a calming corner in our daughter’s room. I wanted her to feel like she was shielded or had privacy to have her big emotions in a safe space, so I ordered a white canopy that hangs from the ceiling. I then found lots of fun pillows to make the space safe and comfy feeling and added all the tools she would need to calm down. I thought this would be the perfect solution, but as she would start to have a big emotion that would turn into a rage, she would refuse to go use her calming corner. I couldn’t understand why. After talking to her counselor, it became so clear. If she wasn’t practicing using her calming corner while she was calm, she would never be able to use it when she was in a chaotic state. So, every day before bedtime she has 15-20 minutes that we call “Calm Your Mind” time. She goes to her calming corner and practices her calming techniques and practices with her tools in the calming corner. It has worked wonders. There will be times when she will look at me and say, “I feel angry I need to go to my calming corner.”, and off she goes. Now does it work perfectly every time? No, but she is learning to control her big emotions before they become out of control.
So, what kind of tools did I add to her calming corner?
Books. Our girl loves books, so I’ve added several books as I’ve come across them over the years. Some are on feelings, how we should act, and moods and what you could do when you are feeling that way. One of my favorites is My Moods My Choices Flip Book.
Emotion cards. Emotion cards and empowerment cards are a must for our calming corner. For the emotion cards, I chose pictures of real kids showing emotions. I will use these usually after our girl has calmed down and can go through how she was feeling. It’s usually easier for her to explain with the emotion cards. I will also use the emotion cards to show her how I was feeling during her rage. Empowerment cards are fun cards that will have fun self-esteem or feelings activities for children to try. Our daughter usually uses these during her calm my mind time.
Fidgets. Fidgets of all kinds are a must for our daughter’s calming corner, and you can find them almost anywhere. After talking to my daughter’s counselor, we picked up a small pinwheel. When we are trying to get her to calm down, we have her take a big breath in and then breathe out to see how fast she can get the pinwheel to spin. It’s one of her favorite calming-down techniques. I love to have breath maze boards to help with anxiety and to help her remember to breathe. I like to keep a few fidgets and a breath maze board in the car just in case they are needed.
As the years have gone by, I have added to the tools in our daughter’s calming corner. Some we have searched out and bought and others have been given to us by her counselor or other programs she has gone through. A calming corner can be elaborate or as simple as you want.
I want our daughter to grow up into an emotionally healthy young lady and I know that it starts with us teaching her how to handle all these big emotions that she’s feeling.